Green energy industry leery of incoming Congress

Congress

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: The recent elections didn't have a lot of bright spots for folks who worry about global warming. As a new U.S. Congress begins work later this week, some investors in renewable energy technologies are nervous.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Adriene Hill reports.


ADRIENE HILL: In the last election cycle, many Congressional candidates campaigned against government plans to put a price on greenhouse gases. Their worry was to that would cost the economy. Here's an ad from West Virginia's Joe Manchin.

JOE MANCHIN: I'll take dead aim at the cap and trade bill.

The plan to price carbon emissions seems pretty well shot dead, at least for now. And other federal government initiatives addressing global warming are also in trouble. Like those giving tax breaks and research funding to the renewable energy. Think solar and wind. That's partly because there's not much agreement in D.C. about whether the earth is actually warming up -- and if air pollution is causing it. Brad Johnson is with the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. He says when you combine questions about the climate with the mood to cut and cut some more.

BRAD JOHNSON: Certainly clean energy and climate related funding is going to be high up on the chopping block.

The outgoing congress did throw the industry a bone. As part of the compromise tax bill just signed, a provision that helps clean energy companies was extended for a year. Brad Nordholm is with Starwood Energy Group, which invests in new energy projects. He says it's a piecemeal solution to a longer term issue.

NORDHOLM: Having a consistent federal policy toward energy investment is by far the thing we need most.

Nordholm says investors are skittish when they don't know what the tax picture will look like in a year, especially because many energy projects take years-plural to get going. But investment isn't just waiting on the sidelines. Beverly Macy is from Y&M partners. It's a consulting group that works with clean technology firms.

BEVERLY MACY: Most companies that we're involved with, whether it's wind or solar really look at this as a global phenomenon.

Macy says companies and private investors see an emerging international market for greener energy technology and that in many cases a lack of federal investment is a hang-up instead of a deal breaker.

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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